Journalists test SEAT& s new electric cars

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Seat Electric Cars

Journalists test SEAT s new electric cars

by Robin Livingstone on 23 Nov 2011

Earlier this month journalists were given the chance to test SEAT’s first fully electric car – the Altea XL Electric Ecomotive – and the plug-in hybrid Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive.

Altea XL Electric Ecomotive: a “near-production prototype”

“That this car is a less than ideal carrier of an electric powertrain is confirmed by a modest 84mph top speed and its sauntering 12 second advance to 62mph. But never mind all that. The aim here is for SEAT to gain real-world experience of developing, building and operating EVs, and to refine their functionality,” said Autocar’s Richard Bremner.

“And it’s here that the Altea is at its most interesting, because of its many drive modes. Besides normal there’s eco, which limits its top speed to 78mph and runs the air conditioner’s compressor more leanly, and there’s also a range mode, designed to extract the last metre of motion from the battery. It cuts the compressor altogether, confines you to 71mph and prunes the SEAT’s accelerative thrust between 22mph and 47mph.

“You can also select ‘S’ to increase the strength of regenerative braking – handy in cities or on twisty roads – or use the paddle shift buttons on the wheel to call up finer gradations of deceleration.

“In plain driving terms the Altea feels much like other EVs [electric vehicles], if not as brisk, but this prototype mostly ensures that SEAT is ready for the rise of amp, volt and ohm-powered personal transportation.”

“Transmission is by a single-speed reduction set-up, with a selectable ‘S’ mode giving extra engine-braking to augment energy capture under deceleration,” wrote Farah Alkhalisi from “This feels somewhat disconcerting at first – the car slows very abruptly when you ease off the throttle – but is an effective way of boosting range.

“A central screen displays data and a graphic diagram depicts energy flow around the powertrain – when the battery is being charged from regenerative braking, for example. Drivers can monitor their cars’ state of charge remotely via a phone app: this also allows them to pre-cool the interior or time their car to start recharging at night on a favourable electricity tariff.

“At this point, the Altea XL Electric promises perfectly usable performance and a pleasant driving experience, and it feels a complete and near-production prototype.”

Seat Electric Cars

Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive: a “versatile solution”

“Think of the VW Group’s TwinDrive powertrain – found in this Leon TwinDrive Ecomotive test car – as three low-emission propulsion systems in one: a pure EV, a series hybrid and a parallel hybrid. And with a plug-in capability besides,” said Autocar’s Bremner.

“Sound complicated? It is, and costly to make too, but it’s a system that allows this experimental Leon to turn in a spectacular 166 official mpg while emitting a mere 39g/km of CO2. It can also travel 32 miles on electric power alone, and has a potential range of over 550 miles.

“[But] driving the TwinDrive Leon is easy. There’s the momentarily disconcerting EV experience of twisting the ignition key to hear silence, the Leon advancing on amperes, but the automatic transmission lever is entirely conventional.

“Driven gently, the SEAT is much like any other electric car, advancing in eerily brisk and restful silence. Accelerate hard and you can hear the petrol motor kicking in, though in the same slightly disconcerting style as an engine harnessed to a CVT transmission, the revolutions of its crankshaft bearing little relation to those of the driven wheels.”

“The [Leon TwinDrive’s] engine kicks in and drops out almost imperceptibly in action – the loudest noise from this car is its tyre roar – and low-speed progress is smooth and linear,” said Alkhalisi from “If the car is charged fully, an urban owner could do most of their daily driving in all-electric mode; a selectable e-mode remaps the throttle for heightened energy-efficiency, or alternatively, a ‘sport’ mode (selected via the gearshift lever) sharpens up the acceleration and brakes.

“It’s a versatile – if complex – solution which could suit a variety of owner needs or tastes without going short on range or performance.”

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